Second week in... beauty everywhere in Florence!
Friday July 8th
This day we got up early and set out for Venice! We packed a backpack and boarded our train. Pax was excited to get to ride a train (I don't think he remembered our other train ride to get here becuase he was so exhausted). I really had no expectations for Venice, and really nothing at all on the agenda. I am completely obsessed with Somebody Feed Phil, so I figured using his restaurants he ate at as a guide was good enough. From the moment we got out of the train station I was overwhelmed with how absolutely beautiful Venice is. Just stunning. Because absolutely no cars are allowed in the city, it's quiet, with just boats and your own two feet to get you around.
We set out for our cicchetti place near Rialto bridge! Cicchetti is sort of similar to tapas, it's a little piece of toasted bread with some sort of spread and topping. This particular joint rotates their menu literally by the hour. When you walk in, point to something - anything - in the window - it will be delicious! I even sat in the exact spot Phil sat in the episode, got a pic and he even shared it on his Instagram...
Saturday, July 9th
We hit up Rialto Bridge, St. Mark's Square and just got lost in all of nooks and crannies of the maze-like Venice streets. To watch how they do life on the island is utterly amazing. Garbage collection, deliveries, everything has to be done by boat or foot! It's pretty unbelievable. But the city - God, it's beautiful. We got a tip from my bosses Sheri and Liane to hit up the top of a shopping mall for a great view of the city. We went near sunset - apparently they require reservations to go up - which we didn't have - but the nice gentleman taking reservations let us in. I think he felt bad because we were trekking around a two-year-old. It was honest-to-God one of my favorite city views I've witnessed. Just a total pinch me moment. After relishing in the city views, we enjoyed some pasta to go from a little hole-in-the-wall joint and then headed back to our fantastic hotel.
The next morning we ate breakfast at our hotel - which was absolutely perfect - highly recommend the Venice TImes Hotel if you don't mind a longer walk/boat ride into the city center, but want to be near the train station. Honestly the bridge right in front of our hotel is just as impressive as the Rialto and 1/10 as crowded. Then we headed out for more shopping, sightseeing, and another Phil spot for lunch - Vini de Arturo. It was an adventure just to find this spot - we circled it probably three times before actually finding it. It was a hidden gem! Phil eats an infamous pork chop here, so we had to try. The owner and manager were absolutely delightful and so humble. Us and one other family (also SFF fans there for the porkchops) were the only families eating in thee for lunch. They treated us to their mega photo album, probably 5 inches thick, of celebrity photos. Literally, you name a celebrity, and they have eaten at Vini de Arturo. Josh and I split the ginormous porkchop, and Paxton got spaghetti. The manager literally fed Paxton, came over twirled the pasta and fed him. It was precious. And the porkchop - my God - one of the more memorable bites that may haunt me until I have the opportunity to visit again. If you love vinegar, and even if you don't - this porkchop is unreal!
We then boarded the train back to Florence for some time to rest up.
Sunday, July 10th
Today we just enjoyed a slow day of rest. The Italians take their rest on Sundays pretty seriously. While a lot of museums are open on Sundays, many businesses and restaurants (especially the smaller ones) do close so you have to be aware when making plans. We just strolled along the Arno and ejoyed the sunshine and not so hot weather that was headed our way.
Monday, July 11th
Today we decided to head down to the other side of Florence and check out Santa Croce Cathedral which houses the graves of Michelangelo and Galileo. I know once you've seen one cathedral in Europe, you've seen them all, but they are each so impressive. Their huge interiors, frescoes, the echoes of visitors whispering in the enclaves. It's just gorgeous. In the back of Santa Croce is also a leather shop where you can witness masters at their craft and buy souvenirs. This is a great little area of town to hang especially if you want to see the other market in town that's a little more for the locals. We also ate lunch at a place called Pino's - it's a college student's dream lunch spot with delicious sandwiches and pastas. Pino is like the Florence dad to many US students studying abroad. On our walk back home, we were more in the medieval district, so we spotted lots of wine windows - there are over 250 in the city! They are windows on old palaces that used to serve wine straight from the family's cellars. Tonight we opted for Il Mercato for dinner to go - it is so nice having this place so convenient!
Tuesday, July 12th
Today we went back to Il Mercato but decided to stroll around the bottom floor with all the vendors. This is endless entertainment for me. I love shopping all the wine shops, pastas, olive oils, fresh food, mushrooms, herbs. It's mindboggling! I got lost several times and made several laps and wasn't the least bit mad about it. This night we also did our professional pictures with Magnolia, we were supposed to meet near the Duomo but it was very crowded so they drove us up to Piazzale Michelangelo and even higher up at San Miniato. The sunset and city skyline were gorgeous! It was our first time up there since we visited eight years ago and I forgot how beautiful this view was. I can't wait to see our pictures back from the photographers! They were so kind to us and took good care of us and showed us the little trick of San Miniato which was not nearly as crowded as Piazzale Michelangelo. We couldn't take any pictures of our own that night, so we decided we'd go back again! After pics it was pretty late, so Paxton and I grabbed dessert first with some gelato while we waited on our pizza from Simbiosi - our favorite little spot around the corner from our place.
Wednesday, July 13th
Today we decided to check out the flagship Eataly store - right off the piazza where the duomo sat. It was small but FULL of so many Italian specialties - cheeses, truffle-infused delicacies, pastas, pastes, sauces, cookies. Anything you could ever dream up from Italy - is in that shop! Then we headed to Zazas a great trattoria we'd eaten dinner at before so we tried for lunch. It's in a cute little piazza near Il Mercato and the outdoor seating is perfect. I had the best seafood risotto of my life before we headed to the Medici Chapels. I remember these chapels from when we came eight years ago and I knew I wanted to go back. This place is just beyond memorable and the dream space of Michelangelo. He was very close with the Medici family and put together the whole vision for the smaller chapel. The larger one is gaudy beyond belief - a must-see in my opinion - but the smaller more intimate chapel, there's so much beauty to soak up in nearly a dozen statues created by Michelangelo. Tonight we did dinner at home, and when Josh had a call, Pax and I decided to get desserts at Il Mercato. I did the Panna Cotta and he did more gelato! Delicious - and we made some friends with some college kids traveling from England.
Thursday, July 14th
Today we were both craving brunch, so we headed to Roosters! It's actually an American-geared joint with Italian principles. Their juices are delicious and gorgeous and their menu is the bomb! I finally fulfilled my Mexican craving with a breakfast burrito, and Josh got fried chicken and waffles. Such a fun space and in a really cool area of town if you are into fashion! Afterward, we strolled over to the Santa Maria Novella district and went around back to the oldest Apothecary in the world! It was more stunning than I could imagine. The iris flowers hanging from the hall ceiling, led us into a beautiful shop/museum. The Dominican monks who came to Florence in the 1200s began this apothecary shop as part of their medical practices with the church and it has evolved ever since. They sell amazing perfumes - so had to snag one as a souvenir for my mama! Tonight we walked along the Arno at sunset - I'm convinced there's nothing better in this town - and enjoyed a ride on the carousel!